: September 22nd 2014 :
I felt as if I were walking along the water’s edge.
The disheveled ocean to my left nipped at my ankles, trying to pull me further into fear of the unknown reason for my searing stomach pains.
The land to my right—though also unfamiliar—represented hope as I waited for a diagnosis.
Receiving a diagnosis meant walking along this wayward shoreline, and that meant getting a colonoscopy. A scope would be the first step to getting the inside scoop on what my insides were doing without my permission.
So in mid-September of 2014, at twenty years old, I had my first colonoscopy and endoscopy.
An endoscopy is the same idea as a colonoscopy, but they stick the camera down your esophagus instead of up your bum. These scopes are oftentimes one of the very first steps that gastroenterologists take when helping patients diagnose unidentifiable intestinal issues.
Specifically, colonoscopies and endoscopies allow the gastroenterologist to:
- examine the level of inflammation in your intestines,
- identify any ulcers, and
- gauge how far your disease travels in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
This last aspect is key because knowing what parts of your body are affected differentiates ulcerative colitis from Crohn’s Disease: ulcerative colitis affects only your colon (large intestine) but Crohn’s Disease can affect any part of your GI tract—anywhere from mouth to anus.
Knowing which IBD disease you have is crucial to future treatments including what medication(s) to take, what foods to eat and avoid, and what type if surgery is needed (if any).
I know that a colonoscopy might sound intimidating, but I believe that maneuvering a camera up your bum is less frightening than going undiagnosed. In fact, these scopes themselves are not bad at all because you’re under anesthesia the entire time.
For me, it’s the weekend of preparation that was shitty—literally. If you’ve had a colonoscopy, I’m sure you would concur. Here’s how my prep weekend went:
The two nights prior to my September colonoscopy and endoscopy, I had to cleanse my bowels with a nasty laxative. The one I was instructed to take was a clear, lemon-flavored Magnesium Citrate, which I purchased for 99¢ each at Target in the aisle by the pharmacy.
Let me just say, this unnaturally strong elixir is insane; it’s a cleanse so thorough that it literally feels like you’re urinating out of your backside. If possible, I’d recommend spending the night someplace where you can reserve the bathroom for yourself the whole night.
Chugging this laxative and defecating was how I spent my Friday night. Friday evening was also my last meal of solid food before the strict clear liquid diet began, so I indulged.
Then, Saturday was the clear liquid diet day. Foods on the “okay to eat” list included broths, plain gelatin, apple juice, white grape juice, white Gatorade, white popsicles, and, of course, water. Pretty bland menu!
And my required beverage to complement this menu was—you guessed it!—another lemon laxative. (Hello toilet, my old friend).
The combination of the laxative and the clear liquid diet made me feel like my guts were not only shedding my entire stomach lining, but my made my belly scream for something solid so I wouldn’t turn in puddle of liquid myself! Let’s just say I definitely had an intimate weekend getaway with the toilet.
Personally, Sunday was the toughest day for me. I was limited to water only; no longer could I find solace in a bowl of plain chicken broth. Needless to say, I drank voluminous amounts of water and slept as much as I could. On Sunday I was lethargic and had a headache from lack of solid food.
I realized I did not take full advantage of all the items on my clear-liquid diet. I only really drank broth and water when I could have given my self much-needed energy from juices, gelatin, and Gatorade!
Learn from my mistake and drink all the liquids on the list your doctor gives you throughout the day; this will keep you energy up and hydrated for as long as possible.
After such an unforgettable weekend, I was more than ready for my Monday morning colonoscopy. I’m grateful my appointment was early because I wasn’t allowed to drink anything—including water!—the morning of the colonoscopy. My parents drove my dazed, dehydrated, and completely-out-of-energy self to the hospital. (For tips on how to avoid this, check out this infographic!)
Needless to say, that weekend had quite literally taken a lot out of me 😛
But with the worst behind me, I sat in the waiting room for a few hours and rested until it was my turn to be probed. Let me tell ya, I was SO STOKED for them to call my name so they could hook me up to the IV and flood my veins with saline. This is one of the first things they do so you can hydrate up without water entering your stomach. Within minutes, my headache disappeared and my energy level went up a notch or two.
And as soon as the scope had begun, it was over. The anesthesia was like a time-warp. When I awoke, I hardly believed the nurse when she said the procedure was complete.
They wheeled me out to the car in a wheelchair, and my parents drove me home—but not before stopping for Chick-fil-A. Finally full and hydrated, I carried out the rest of my day like normal. After you shake off the anesthesia’s grogginess, you’re back at it pretty quickly! Just keep in mind that when preparing your colonoscopy to follow your doctor’s instructions; I know different doctors do prep work in different ways. 🙂
This procedure was my first solid step along the water’s edge. This colonoscopy and endoscopy was my first step to fully coming to terms that something was wrong with my body; but it was simultaneously empowering because it gave me confidence in my initiative to tackle this mystery head-on.
Though at the time I didn’t know it would take roughly six weeks after this procedure to receive my diagnosis, I felt comfort in taking this step forward along the shore with an angle toward the hopeful land on the right.
I know that the pre-diagnosis process is scary. For those of you feeling the onset of similar symptoms and to those of you plunging into your first step of fighting back against your colitis or Crohn’s Disease, I want to encourage you to keep your eyes on the shoreline.
Don’t let the fear of the jagged waters rule over you, and don’t be overwhelmed by the land seemingly miles away from answers.
Take baby steps.
Take it day by day.
Stay along the water’s edge, and with the help of your doctor and your support group, you will gradually make your way toward certain and solid land.
In The Comical Colon’s Facebook group, let’s start a conversation:
I’d love to hear your first step along the shoreline. Maybe it was also a colonoscopy. Perhaps it was diving right into a medication. It might be something completely different entirely! Each patient’s ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease journey is unique—what was the first step you took toward answers and toward hope?
I truly believe the way to bridge this disease type’s chasm of alienation, fear, being misunderstood, etc. is to connect and talk about it. Let’s discuss our fears, our trials, our triumphs, and learn to find the comical in it all.